An Upcycled, Unforgettable Thanksmas

There is nothing quite like creating one-of-a-kind gifts that will remain in the hearts of your loved ones for life. Thanks to Catherine Charlot, the Brooklyn fashion designer behind Upcycle with Himane, I was able to make this holiday season unforgettable.

Catherine's work is featured in this month's O, The Oprah Magazine, so I feel as though I've stumbled across her amazing talents at just the right time (before she's too busy to return my calls!). In looking at her designs on Big Cartel, you'll see that her work consists mainly of transforming umbrellas, yoga mats and other found/discarded items into beautiful handbags and clothing, making them even better (hence the term upcycling, not just recycling). But when I met Catherine at a Style with Glee event and she mentioned she can also upcycle the clothing of a loved one who has passed into functional and fashionable handmade items that can be used in that person's memory, I knew what I wanted to do for my family for Christmas this year.

ENVISIONING UNIQUE HOLIDAY GIFTS This past summer, I commissioned Catherine to create Christmas gifts for my family from the clothes of my father, Anthony Arnone, who died of lung cancer in September 2010. I wanted to make this second holiday season since his passing extra memorable for my family, so I showed up at the Himane workshop with three bags of my father's pants, jackets and ties, and Catherine proceeded to start combining the items and spec out the 18 wallets, handbags and eyeglass cases for my family members.

Since I won't be home for Christmas this year, we set a deadline for the week of Thanksgiving, when my husband and I would surprise my family with these gifts at my mother's house, combining the two holidays into Thanksmas.

REACTIONS TO HIMANE'S WORK The end result was phenomenal. Catherine's designs are fresh and inspired, and she maintained the integrity of each fabric, using them in their entirety, linings and all. My family was absolutely stunned and thrilled by the pieces, and were not only in awe of Catherine's handiwork, but also of the idea itself. My dad's best friend said that now he can "carry his buddy with him in his pocket every day." My mother was incredibly touched and couldn't get over the gorgeous handmade designs.

I can't thank Catherine enough for having made my holiday season so special, and I hope that others will look to her to create similar projects to enable lifelong memories of their own. Catherine is the subject of an upcoming documentary by filmmaker Rob Weiss, and I can't wait for more people to learn of her amazing talent and compassion.

CONTACTING CATHERINE CHARLOT / UPCYCLE WITH HIMANE Enjoy the photos, and please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. To contact Catherine, visit her blogher Himane Facebook page or email her directly.

A blessed holiday season to you all,

Carla